Sunday, July 21, 2019

Nomination triggers joy, bewilderment in equal measure

Feb 08. 2019
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By The Nation Weekend

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The king's elder sister Princess Ubolratana is now officially a PM candidate – much to the surprise of many across the country.

In a wink, her Instagram comment – “If you wish me well, say ‘May you stay slim and slender’ ” – has become the hottest hashtag on Twitter.

That’s followed in popularity by #Thai Raksa Chart, which is also known as Thai Safe the Nation Party (sic). Thai Raksa Chart is the party that’s nominated her as its sole PM candidate. 

“May you stay slim and slender” is a pun on the double meaning of the Thai word charoen as both “long live” and “fat”. 

A Twitter user tagged his post #Princess Be Slender in expressing loyalty and hope that her nomination puts an end to multiple political rows plaguing the country. 

“Let’s leave colour-coded politics behind and move towards a beautiful future,” he tweeted.

In contrast, political commentator Decharut Sukkumnoed, a Kasetsart University lecturer, chose to refrain from discussing politics for now. 

Upon hearing about Ubolratana’s nomination, Nuchanart Tantong, coordinator of the Four Regions Slum Network, said she hoped the Princess considered everyone in society equal, be they rich or poor. 

“I hope the new PM candidate will come out with measures to relieve the impact of air pollution for all citizens – especially the poor who have been suffering the most,” she said. 

A Bangkok food vendor who asked not to be named said she was shocked by the news. “I don’t really know what’s going on!” she exclaimed. 

At 67, Ubolratana has had no political experience, but her nomination was met with loud cheers and widespread shows of support. 

Her private Instagram account, “nichax”, was flooded with congratulatory messages on Friday. 

One message came from Paetongtarn “Ing” Shinawatra, daughter of former premier Thaksin. 

“I wish to be your supporter no matter how small I am in whatever you do,” she wrote. 

The princess replied, “Thank you Ing for your constant moral support.” 

Ubolratana, who renounced her royal title to marry a foreigner decades ago, also took time to thank her other supporters via Instagram. “I am deeply touched,” she wrote. “I would like to tell you that I want to see everybody in Thailand enjoy their right to opportunities and happiness.” 

The Princess emphasised that she was now a “commoner” and wanted to exercise her constitutional rights as such. She said she agreed to let TSN nominate her as a way of exercising her rights and freedoms, insisting that she enjoyed no special privileges. 

Atukkit Sawangsuk, a TV host and newspaper columnist affiliated with the red-shirt movement, said on Facebook he now believed anything could happen – even “the impossible”. 

“But I disagree,” he said, without directly mentioning the Princess’ decision to accept the nomination. “This is because I foresee both short- and long-term problems.”

He fretted that Ubolratana’s nomination could open a new phase of political battles, but said, “Let’s start anew in this new phase.” 

Other red shirts said they felt betrayed and were disappointed by Thai Raksa Chart’s decision to nominate Ubolratana. 

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